Willow Tree Fen nature reserve’s fifth birthday

A visitor to Willow Tree Fen: the Marsh Harrier. Photo: Don Davis.
A visitor to Willow Tree Fen: the Marsh Harrier. Photo: Don Davis.

Five years ago this week, the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust bought 114 hectares (282 acres) of farmland nestled between the River Glen and the Counter Drain, writes Rachel Shaw, of Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

The land was naturally undulating and the crops often failed in the low depressions that became waterlogged after rain.

The location, with the River Glen and Counter Drain providing linear wetland links to the Trust’s existing nature reserves of Baston Fen and Thurlby Fen Slipe, and the low depressions, made it an ideal location for the creation of a new fenland nature reserve: Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve.

Five years on and the natural depressions in the fields are holding water over the winter and attracting large numbers of waterfowl such as wigeon, teal, mallard, and waders including lapwing and golden plover, plus oystercatcher, redshank, ruff, black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper, snipe, woodcock, both ringed and little-ringed plover and greenshank.

In spring and summer the reedy margins along the edges of the dykes and ponds are home to reed and sedge warblers, reed bunting and even the occasional bearded tit. Swallows sweep around the grazing cattle and skylark sing overhead. Lapwings began breeding two years after the land was bought.

Four species of owl have been seen on the reserve: barn, tawny, little and short-eared, and six species of raptor: kestrel, sparrowhawk, buzzard, marsh harrier, red kite and peregrine. An unexpected wildlife spectacle was large numbers of pike spotted moving across fields that only a few years before had been growing wheat. Recently a specialist survey team discovered an impressive 67 different species of water beetles and bugs including a number of rare species. Over 500 different species of animal and plant have now been recorded at Willow Tree Fen and we can expect this to increase in future.

Willow Tree Fen nature reserve is open to the public and we are keen to hear about the wildlife that people see on the reserve. Please get in touch via our website www.lincstrust.org.uk or on the Willow Tree Fen Nature Reserve facebook page. Willow Tree Fen is situated between Bourne and Spalding, south of the River Glen on the Pode Hole to Tongue End road. The entrance bridge is at grid ref TF 181213.